Every house today holds a variety of different brands of personal care and household products. However, the most common brands that can be found in most (if not all) bathrooms are the products of over two centuries of innovation. Colgate-Palmolive is one of the oldest companies in America and has grown from its humble origins as a small factory to a national brand that continues to be trusted today.
William Colgate was a soap and candle-maker whose entrepreneurial ventures were born in the city of New York. Early in his career, Colgate extended his partnership with his brother, dubbing their company ‘William Colgate and Company.’ His brand focused on producing toilet soaps and starch. It was not until his death that the company’s direction shifted towards other products like perfumes, essences, and scented soap, eventually discontinuing its starch line after a fire burned down the factory.
The company later started developing and selling toothpaste. Initially, they sold them in jars and took over two decades before selling Colgate Ribbon Dental Cream in the tube used today. When the 1900s rolled in, Colgate & Company started to develop more products like toilet paper. Not long after, the company shifted its headquarters to Jersey City.
While Colgate & Company was busy building its empire on the east coast, soap factories were opening up on the other side of the country, with BJ Johnson Soap Company taking the helm in Wisconsin. They introduced the Palmolive Soap and became a national hit, prompting the company to change its name to the Palmolive Company. The company would later join with the Peet Brothers, who thrived in the soap industry in Kansas, forming the Palmolive-Peet Company. Shortly after, they joined with Colgate & Company, giving birth to the Colgate-Palmolive Peet Company.
The company continued to grow and eventually merged with Kraft Phenix Cheese Corporation and Hershey Chocolate Company. Although they were under one banner, each company continued its operations independently. As time went on, they became subsidiaries of a company that would later become the International Quality Products Corporation. However, the stock market crashed days after signing the deal, rushing the amalgamation. The Colgate family took over Colgate-Palmolive-Peet.
The years that followed saw the company expand its market share and product lines worldwide, acquiring the global leader in veterinary and pet-nutrition products Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Softsoap liquid soap. By the 90s, the company became the foremost producer of all-purpose cleaners, wipes, and sprays.
Despite Colgate-Palmolive’s empire marching towards great heights, the company was met with criticism and boycotts by groups and organizations that rallied for animal rights upon learning that they tested adult personal-care products on animals. Opting to move away from their usual practice, Colgate-Palmolive took a progressive direction to reduce the number of animal testing.
Since then, the company has shifted its focus to manufacturing oral care products like its signature toothpaste, mouthwashes, and toothbrushes, leading them to become global leaders. Additionally, they have held educational programs to reach out to over fifty million children annually as they continue to impact the world in more ways than one.